The horrific fire at a Bronx apartment building in early January has led to a wave of new laws for multifamily landlords in New York City. A new bill introduced in the New York City Council could add to the requirements. Councilmember Crystal Hudson proposed a bill that’ll make landlords raise minimum temperatures in apartments. The idea is it’ll reduce the use of dangerous space heaters.
The high-rise Bronx apartment fire killed 17 people, including 8 children, and was among the worst building fires the U.S. has seen in four decades. The fire was started by a malfunctioning space heater. New York City law requires that landlords keep heat in multifamily buildings to at least 68 degrees during the day at 62 at night from October through May. The new Council bill would increase those temps to 70 and 66 degrees.
New York City last raised minimum multifamily temps in 2017, and Council members talked of the deadly Bronx fire earlier this year when proposing the bill. Residents at the complex that caught ablaze often complained of unheated apartments that forced them to use space heaters. The building had three heating-related complaints in 2021, though none were active at the time of the tragic fire. NYC has received 5,574 complaints of inadequate heat since 2017, but a Real Deal analysis revealed complaints have trended down in recent years.
Raising minimum temperatures sounds like a good safety measure, but it could also impact energy efficiency. Some real estate professionals said raising temps again runs contrary to Local Law 97, as it would increase energy use. Following such a tragic fire, more regulations seem inevitable. Whether or not rules like new minimum multifamily temperature requirements are actually enforced is another story entirely.